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Tourist's Selfie On Brooklyn Bridge Raises Questions About Security

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A tourist's selfie taken from the top of the Brooklyn Bridge is raising questions about the NYPD and its security as the city ramps up for the July 4th holiday amid terror threats.

Counter-terrorism teams were at the foot of the bridge Wednesday, a marked contrast to what tourist David Karnauch says he saw when he decided to scale one of the bridge's suspension cables to snap a photo.

"I climbed up one, got to the middle of the bridge and walked across," he told CBS2 via Skype. "I just turned around and took a selfie."

The selfie stick picture was taken over the weekend, capturing Karnauch perched high atop the East River standing on an outer cable with no one stopping him.

David Karnauch's Brooklyn Bridge Selfie
College student David Karnauch took this selfie on an unauthorized section of the Brooklyn Bridge. (Credit: David Karnauch)

"I mean, there were two cops in the beginning, at the end of the bridge but they just sit there," he said. "There was no one in the middle."

In a statement, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-terrorism John Miller said Karnauch's actions did not constitute a "security breach," but were still ill-advised and forbidden.

"The person most endangered was the individual, whose goal seems to be bringing attention to himself," Miller said in a statement. "It was however, irresponsible and illegal. Had the officers patrolling the bridge arrived while he was there, he would have been arrested, as others have been."

But experts don't agree and say it was a security breach.

"We've had several other people who went on the Brooklyn Bridge last year and were arrested, so this is a breach," security expert Manny Gomez said, adding it wasn't a severe breach because "this was just a thrill seeker looking to get likes and hits on Instagram as opposed to a terrorist."

While driving across the bridge Wednesday, CBS2's Janelle Burrell reported seeing multiple NYPD scooters and one officer on foot.

Meanwhile, city residents have mixed reaction to the NYPD response.

"Technically, it's a security breach, but that's what makes life exciting in New York, people doing these crazy things," said Park Slope resident Ken Eiges.

When asked if enough was being done in terms of police patrol, Crown Heights resident Thomasina Robinson said, "No absolutely not."

"Someone can get up there and do whatever they want to do," Robinson added.

To prepare for one of the largest Independence Day celebrations in the country the NYPD said that counter-terrorism efforts would be beefed up.

"This may be the most complex counter-terrorism overlay for this event ever. Again, that is not driven by any information or particular threat, as much as it's driven by the unfolding world events," Miller said.

It's not clear whether a warrant will be issued for Karnauch's arrest. He said he was visiting from Tennessee and wasn't aware that climbing the bridge is illegal.

The absence of criminal charges raised concerns for Brooklyn Boro President Eric Adams, who said he is worried about the kind of message it would send, CBS2's Tracee Carrasco reported.

"To not press charges is the wrong message. It sends a message that it's okay to be so selfish that you're gonna take a selfie without us realizing the danger that someone wants to do us harm can also use instead of a selfie stick. A dynamite stick," Adams said.

In August of last year, Russian tourist Yaroslav Kolchin was arrested for allegedly scaling the bridge. He claimed he only wanted to take photos of the top.

On July 22, two American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge's towers were replaced with whitewashed versions of Old Glory. Two German artists later claimed responsibility.

The New York City Department of Transportation later installed new barriers to prevent anyone from climbing to the top of the span.

The NYPD said their increased presence over the weekend, should give New Yorkers every reason to come out and enjoy the July 4th festivities.

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